Mudra (hand gesture) is a method of citta-bhavana, or cultivating a specific state of mind. There are dozens of mudras, and each represents a certain quality, such as compassion, courage, or wisdom. It is believed that, by practicing mudra, you awaken the seeds of these states within you.
Mudras can be found in the art and rituals of many sacred traditions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and hatha yoga. Many of the best-known mudras represent the qualities of a bodhisattva, a yogic warrior who fights fearlessly to end the suffering of all beings. The origins of specific mudras are unknown, but it is believed that each gesture is the natural outer expression of an enlightened inner state. You can think of mudras as the sign language that springs from an open mind and an awakened heart.
Practicing mudra during asana, meditation, pPranayama, or kirtan (chanting) will help you quiet the background chatter of your mind. But the power of these seemingly simple hand gestures goes far beyond adding focus to your practice. Mudras can remind you of two important pieces of yogic wisdom. First, you are already whatever you seek to be. It’s easy to see courage and wisdom in the stories and images of Hindu deities or the Buddha. It’s much more difficult to see that those qualities reside in you. Mudras can remind you that these are not traits that you either have or don’t have. They are states that you consciously choose to feel and express. Second, mudra practice can help you find a way to translate good intentions into skillful actions. Mudras are the bridge between your inner spiritual experience and your outer interactions with the world. Actions speak louder than words, and mudras are like prayers translated into physical form.